After nearly half the school year spent navigating the unique challenges of hybrid learning, I received a note from my son’s district stating that, in the next few weeks, grades three and four would be able to return to full-time in-person learning.
With a child in kindergarten, who has been fortunate enough to be able to go to school five days a week since the beginning of the school year, I was delighted to hear my older son would soon be afforded this same opportunity. Both of my children are outgoing and social, and I believe being in the classroom is a benefit to their emotional and mental well-being.
And, let’s be honest, having a steady school schedule for both kids will help me tremendously.
I thought my son, who struggled with remote learning last spring, and often vocalized how much he missed his friends, would have been ecstatic about this change, especially since being back full-time would mean he would now get to see those kids who weren’t in his cohort.
I shared the news with my son, expecting him to be happy.
Instead, my son looked at me forlornly and sighed. He then shared that while he enjoyed being able to go to school and see his friends, he liked having those in between days of remote learning.
My son explained how he enjoyed the days of not having to get up as early and rush to get ready for the bus. He liked that his remote days allowed him more free time in the afternoon.
And, he was clear that he didn’t want to be a full-time remote learner, he just liked the balance of having both styles of learning.
I have to imagine my son is not alone.
School is exhausting in a normal year, and in these times, I believe, many kids just need a bit of a break.
During this pandemic, the debate about the best style of education for our kids seems to be an either or conversation. Either we get the kids back into school full-time, or we keep them home because it is safer.
Even beyond the question of health, some families are finding remote learning is the best option for their kids, while others are doing everything they can to get their kids in physical school as much as possible.
I wonder, however, if this pandemic has presented us the opportunity to rethink the five-day, six-hour-per-day school model.
Perhaps, all kids really need are two to three days in a school building per week?
Other than worrying about meeting some outlandish testing standards, I imagine our teachers are more than capable of providing a wealth of knowledge to our kids in that window. The days not spent in school could be used for independent exploration, and for teens, maybe even to explore future career opportunities.
Imagine being able to spend the day at a museum or other cultural institution with elementary age students, or sending your high schooler off to spend the day apprenticing for a chef or a landscaper? Surely, these opportunities are effective teaching tools.
I understand homeschooling or unschooling affords those opportunities, yet having the balance of some in-person, formal instruction is something I think many families would appreciate.
Again, I love having both of my children in school, and certainly won’t complain if my son ends up preferring to be in class with his friends five days a week.
Yet, I am open to considering how maybe there is a better way to structure traditional school after the pandemic.
Systemic change is hard, and I don’t expect public schools to suddenly switch to a three-day model. There are many families who need a five day a week school system to have kids in school receiving meals, or so that parents can continue to work full-time.
I mean, people have been pushing for a four-day work week for years, and most employees are still grinding it out Monday through Friday.
I also understand not every family is like mine and is able to have a child at home throughout the week. But, I think it doesn’t hurt to think about how education can work differently now.
And maybe it’s time to listen to the kids and what they want and need, too.